The notion that employers are only interested in where you have been and where you are heading is pure nonsense. Experienced hiring managers take into account both your experience and your character. After all, in the end, they are hiring a human being, not a robot. Still, many believe that personal attributes just take up space and make the resume “fluffy.”
After reading countless job descriptions that make it a point to mention personal characteristics and speaking directly with hiring managers on this specific topic, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the inclusion of personal attributes that make resumes superficial. It’s how the characteristics are presented that is the cause of concern. In this article, I will focus on the top three characteristics employers seek (good communication skills, honesty, and a strong work ethic) and discuss how you can seamlessly integrate them into your resume. Now let’s get started.
Print out your resume and take a look at it. If you find that you carelessly threw some of the characteristics mentioned above in your resume without making supporting statements to back them up, then the reader will question the sincerity of your claims.
Here’s an example of a superficial sentence: “Possess a strong work ethic and recognized for the ability to deliver results.” Although the sentence covers attributes employers seek, the sentence needs to be spiced up.
For example, a more compelling sentence is: “Demonstrated record of consistent performance and ability to establish strong presence within global markets (e.g. China, Italy, Sweden), generating 6- and 7-figure revenue gains.”
Notice the difference? In the original sentence, the declaration didn’t carry much weight. Simply stating you have certain characteristics doesn’t make it so. The reader will be scratching his or her head and thinking, “Oh yeah? Prove it.”
The revised sentence takes a different approach. Instead of stating personal characteristics outright, the sentence demonstrates results; therefore the reader can deduce that the candidate has all the right characteristics. This will leave the reader thinking, “Interesting stuff. I’ll put this candidate in the must-call pile.”
Presentation is Everything
The way the resume is structured, organized, and written also alludes to your personal characteristics. Using actual client stories and the top three characteristics employers seek, I’ll discuss common mistakes jobseekers make in the presentation of their resumes.
Poor Communication Skills Are a Real Killer: Bryan was extremely qualified for all the positions he applied for, but he was receiving no bites. After careful review of his resume, I noticed that although he claimed to be an excellent communicator, he failed to communicate his value. It was obvious the resume was homespun and lacked the finesse needed to garner the attention of hiring managers. He was under the impression that once he received an interview, he would be able to communicate exactly why he was qualified for the position. Unfortunately, he never received that chance.
Lesson learned: Simply writing “strong communication skills” isn’t going to be enough to convince a decision maker that you can successfully interact with others. A hiring manager is going to look to your resume as verification of your claims; and if you aren’t able to effectively put two sentences together, they are going to question not only your communication skills but also your ability to do the job.
A Question of Integrity: During a client-intake session with Amanda, a recent college graduate, she told me her current job title was “Director of External Public Relations.” I couldn’t help but think that was an impressive title for a 22-year-old. After prodding a little, I discovered the real story. It just so happens that this particular client worked for her aunt in a two-person office and there were occasions when she wrote press releases and spoke to reporters regarding the latest company happenings.
Though she did participate in public relation activities, the title of Director of External Public Relations was a bit of a stretch. An employer would have had the same reaction I did. He or she would have doubted her claims and as a result, wouldn’t have bothered calling her in for an interview.
Lesson Learned: Your resume has to be believable. If an employer has any inkling you are being deceitful, your resume will go in the trash. And even if you are able to get through the resume review and interview process with half-truths, be warned: once hired, you will be expected to deliver.
When a Strong Work Ethic Doesn’t Work: Even though he had five different jobs within three years, Patrick insisted on including that he had a strong work ethic in his resume. He claimed that his job-hopper image was unjust since he left each job because it wasn’t the right job for him. He insisted that when he found the right job, he would definitely be committed.
After careful review of his personal characteristics, we agreed that there were other personal characteristics he could use that would make him just as employable as the phrase “strong work ethic;” phrases that wouldn’t leave the reader with the feeling that he was trying to pull one over on them.
Lesson Learned: In a resume, leverage what you have to offer and don’t try to sell yourself as something you are not. Your resume should answer questions for hiring managers, not leave lingering doubts.
Integrating personal characteristics in your resume will make the resume reader-friendly and allow the reader to visualize you in the position.
by Linda Matias
Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. She is president of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers’ Association. Visit her website at www.careerstrides.com.